There are many reasons why people decide to pursue acupuncture as an alternative treatment. One of the most common, however, is headaches, which are one of the main reasons people seek medical consultations with GPs and neurologists.
Headaches resulting from tension affect up to 80% of the UK’s adult population, predominantly women (65% of the cases). In chronic cases symptoms can begin before the age of 10, with the causes often being multifactorial, although 40% of people with chronic headaches have a history of the ailment in the family.
According to the International Headache Society, the term tension headache describes both infrequent and frequent, episodic headaches, as well as the chronic forms of the conditions. While many medical practitioners tend to deem the headache as a secondary symptom to another condition, the society holds it as a primary condition, meaning that the headaches are a disorder that deserves attention and treatment.
Symptoms of a Tension Headache
The characteristics of tension headaches range from mild to moderate pain that does not worsen with physical activity, but can give the sufferers the effect of a pressing or tightening feeling across both sides of the head. More severe cases may see sufferers struggle with photophobia or phonophobia, a condition that renders sufferers extremely sensitive to light and/or noise. The period of time for these headaches can range from minutes to days.
Traditional treatment for tension headaches, regardless of the conditions regularity and severity, aims to reduce the pain with minimal side effects. Often this comes in the form of prescribed or over-the-counter medications.
How acupuncture can help
While medication can prove useful in some cases, in others it has become clear that there is certainly a need for an alternative means of treatment. Recent systematic reviews have indicated the benefits that can be gained through adding acupuncture to address the condition. In fact, Sun and Gam (2008) found that acupuncture was more effective than other alternative interventions, and also better than medication, for a mixture of both tension and migraine-type headaches.
The thinking behind acupuncture as a treatment for headaches lies in its ability to stimulate the nervous system, which results in a release of neurochemical messenger molecules that influence the body’s mechanisms to promote a positive physical and emotional well-being. Hui (2010) supports this thinking with research that proves stimulation of certain joints can actually affect the areas of the brain that reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.
Some of the many ways acupuncture can address – and even relieve – tension headaches include:
- Increasing endorphins
- Stimulating nerves in muscles and other tissues
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing local microcirculation
If you suffer from tension headaches and would like to try an alternative treatment to the medication your GP prescribes, then you might like to consider acupuncture. We hope that you’ll get in touch with us so that we can answer any questions you might have. And we recommend that you always attend acupuncture sessions with someone who is a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC).